Stolen Children

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Stolen Children




This powerful and moving program delves into a crime against the Timorese people under the confusion of war. As the Indonesian army swept across the occupied land, children of all ages disappeared. The children, now adults, are facing an emotional return home to the land they were taken from many years before.

Nina Pinto and Alis Sumiaputra are among an estimated 4,000 Timorese children who were ‘stolen’ from their homeland after Indonesia occupied Timor-Leste in 1975. In the early chaotic days of the invasion, the soldiers took the children opportunistically. Later, children were taken as part of a state-sponsored mission by Indonesia to educate and ‘civilise’.

At the age of 8, Alis was plucked from the streets of his village in Timor-Leste by an Indonesian soldier and taken to West Java. The soldier adopted the stolen child into his family, converted Alis to Islam and changed his name. Eventually Alis took over the family farm. His Timorese family was never mentioned. Until, in 2019, a woman called Nina came looking for him. Like Alis, Nina was also stolen from Timor-Leste as a child. She was sexually abused by the soldier who took her and treated like a servant by his family. At age 17 she ran away and later managed to reunite with her Timorese family. Now she looks for others that were stolen.

For some there is much pain and guilt. At his parents’ graveside in his village, Alis bows his head and weeps realising that his journey back to his homeland came too late to give his family the joy of finding their lost child.

A Foreign Correspondent story


Foreign Correspondent
Australian Broadcasting Corporation